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Mahesh Ramani

Mahesh Ramani is a senior content editor for the Hotcourses India- an IDP company.


24 Feb 2015 1.2K Book icon 3 mins Share

Common mistakes to avoid when taking the TOEFL

Avoid these common mistakes that students tend to make while taking up the TOEFL!

24 Feb 2015 1.2K Book icon 3 mins Share
Mahesh Ramani

Mahesh Ramani is a senior content editor for the Hotcourses India- an IDP company.


Share this article
Common mistakes to avoid when taking the TOEFL

So you have successfully completed the TOEFL and are all smiles thinking of getting a good score. Then reality hits you when you get the score, which is way below what you imagined. So what went wrong? Do not worry, this is a common occurrence and quite a number of students have taken the TOEFL twice or thrice before they achieved a ‘good score’. This article gives you tips on the mistakes that you can avoid while preparing for the TOEFL and some tips to be followed on the test day. 


‘Good preparation is half the battle won’. You should have a clear idea of the minimum TOEFL score needed for admission into the programme that you plan to study. Different institutions have a slightly different parameter to fix the cut-off scores; so ensure that you know what score you need to achieve in the TOEFL.

Give yourself sufficient time to prepare for the TOEFL. Remember that you will be tested on - Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening. Conduct a self-analysis to figure out which is your area of weakness and improve on that.

Do NOT use material printed in your native language:

The TOEFL is designed to test your English language skills. So relying on material that is prepared in your native language for ‘ease of understanding’ is a clear ‘no-brainer’. Stick to TOEFL-recommended study material.The next paragraph will offer more insight on this topic.

TOEFL - recommended study material:

Every leading academic publisher wants to cash in on the popularity of the TOEFL and there are various books available that cater to the needs of students. Use your discretion, only buy books that are issued by the Educational Testing Service - ETS - they administer the TOEFL and are the best authority on the subject. Books issued by the Cambridge University Press and Barron’s are also well respected. Avoid reading too many books and confusing yourself. 

Money back guarantee gimmicks:

The past few years have seen several training centres mushrooming around the world, which claim to offer training programmes designed to enable you to score over 85 in the TOEFL.

They have a marketing gimmick wherein they promise to refund a portion of your fees if you fail to score 85 or more. Do not fall for such tricks. Join certified centres that have a proven track-record. Check with academic staff at your school or college for tips on good centres. You can also contact senior students who have completed a TOEFL training course and listen to their advice.

Online resources:

Things are much easier now when compared to a decade back when access to the internet was not as easy as it is today. On top of that the smartphone revolution and the availability of test preparation apps have made preparing for the TOEFL fun! Most websites offer packages that allow you to take tests modeled on the TOEFL and give you personalised feedback with an analysis of your skill-levels. This is quite useful and will instill confidence in you when you take the actual TOEFL. The ETS website also offers sample questions, which are updated regularly.

Build your vocabulary:

Read “The New York Times”, “The Economist” and “The Wall Street Journal” for high-quality editorial writing. In India - “The Hindu” is known for its quality of writing. Read articles available in these publications and attempt to rewrite them in your own words. This exercise will give you confidence in writing the TOEFL essay and also help improve your vocabulary. Listening to the news on channels like the BBC and CNN will also be helpful, especially when you attempt the ‘Listening’ module of the TOEFL.

Test day tips:

  • Reach the venue at least 20 minutes before the scheduled test time.
  • If you reside far away from the test venue, start early, do not end up late for the test.
  • Carry everything that you require for the test.
  • The test is for four and a half hours and there will be one break for about 10 minutes in between. Utilise the break with care.
  • Do not rush through the test or waste too much time on a single question.
  • If a question foxes you- stop guessing the answer and move to the next question.
  • When speaking on the extempore topic- express your thoughts clearly without any fear.
  • The essay component is critical and needs to be attempted with care. Do not meander about the topic aimlessly and write in a clear and crisp style.
  • If you do your test badly do not worry or feel disappointed. Prepare for the test again with more care and give the TOEFL another shot.

We hope that you found this article useful. If you have any tips of your own that you would like to share with others who are preparing to write the TOEFL, please call or chat with us. 

Preparing for TOEFL?

Nupur Verma Nupur Verma,
IDP Expert
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